On Friday, the Chinese-language China Times published an article about the EU's concern over the death penalty in Taiwan.
On the surface, the concern appears to have been generated by the Minister of Justice signing an execution order for Chung Teh-shu (
Since the end of World War II, the UN has led a movement to abolish the death penalty. For example, the UN International Court of Justice excludes the death penalty.
This movement has made noticeable progress over the last few decades.
Currently, 88 countries have no death penalty at all, 11 use it only in times of war and 30 have not carried out an execution in over a decade.
Of the remaining 68 countries, only 22 carried out an execution last year.
This progress has several causes.
The UN has promoted this trend, as have international human rights organizations and individual governments.
The EU has been a leading voice in the campaign to end the death penalty across the globe.
Not only are countries that seek to join the EU required to abolish the death penalty, but one prominent foreign policy goal of the EU as a whole and its member countries is to encourage other nations to abolish the death penalty.
Another major catalyst in the trend towards a global abolition is the sense of urgency created by the progress of the movement.
Last year, only 22 countries carried out an execution.
Of these 22 countries, China accounted for 82 percent of executions, making it the leader of the pack. China has naturally become a primary target for human rights activists.
The US and Japan are responsible for far less than 10 percent of executions. However, because they are so-called developed countries, they have been condemned as much as China.
Taiwan executed only three people last year, so the reason Taiwan has attracted attention is more complicated.
Taiwan's level of development is high, and so international expectations are naturally higher for Taiwan than for other countries conducting executions, like Iran or Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, countries which have already abolished the death penalty hope that a Taiwanese abolition would become a model for China.
If China were to make progress on this front, pressure on the US and Japan would no doubt increase.
Finally, Taiwan announced its intention to gradually abolish the death penalty six years ago, and this has naturally raised international expectations and demands.
It is here that we must further examine Taiwan's rate of progress on putting an end to capital punishment.
Taiwan has made some progress in the last six years.
The number of crimes that carry the death penalty has dropped drastically from a notorious count of over 160 during the authoritarian era.
Some crimes used to carry the death penalty with no room for the court to reduce the sentence, but this has been entirely abolished.
However, 49 crimes still carry an optional death penalty.
Executions are also more carefully considered than before. Although 22 death penalty convictions have accumulated this year, as of Dec. 1, Taiwan had not yet carried out a single execution.
If this continues through the end of the year, it will be the first year in the ROC's history with no executions. Naturally, the whole world is watching, especially the EU.
Unfortunately, the Minister of Justice signed an order for the execution of Chung earlier this month.
This exposed weak points in the government's policy to gradually eliminate the use of the death penalty.
Many countries with the death penalty adhere to strict additional procedures to ensure a fair trial and sentence, since an executed prisoner cannot be brought back to life.
But the procedure for the judgment and signing of Chung's order of execution had serious procedural flaws.
In addition, the government has yet to lay the foundations necessary for abolishing the death penalty.
Information on capital punishment is inadequately disseminated, as is proven by the necessity to write this article.
Taiwan could use a moratorium on executions to focus attention and spurn a policy debate, and the government could provide a buffer period before executions and provide special care for the victim's family.
These steps are not only the focus of the EU and the international community, but they will also be examined at next year's World Conference Against the Death Penalty to be held in Paris.
The concern that the EU has expressed about Taiwan naturally is meant to apply pressure, but behind the pressure are well-intentioned expectations and friendly reminders.
Chung has filed a special appeal, and the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty is calling for a ruling by the Council of Grand Justices on the constitutionality of the death penalty.
This is the perfect time for the Taiwanese people to reflect carefully and debate the abolition of the death penalty.
This is not only a question of whether we want to catch up with the rest of the world.
More important is the reflection and consideration that a civilized society must undertake when facing the death penalty issue.
Many Taiwanese regard the US and Japan as role models -- two of the 22 countries that executed prisoners last year.
Their self-reflection and debate on the death penalty is far more vibrant than ours.
In comparison, isn't Taiwan a little too utilitarian, closed-minded and numb?
Peter Huang is a member of the Executive Committee of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty.
Translated by Jason Cox
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